A stroll among the red-brick buildings on the shady, grassy University of Arizona campus is a chance to get some exercise and discover whimsical, powerful, perspective-challenging art.
More than 40 outdoor public-art pieces — abstract and realistic sculptures, mosaics, memorials and public spaces — punctuate the UA campus.
Public art makes a visual impact and makes campus “an interesting, unique place to be,” says Kristen Schmidt, registrar at the UA Museum of Art, which is responsible for the maintenance and upkeep of the art.
The art helps stimulate conversation — not everyone sees the same thing in a piece — and can help create a critical-thinking dialogue, says Schmidt.
Public art also establishes landmarks and identity, she says. UA catalogs and reports often bear images of public art.
Without students, classes or activities, the campus is quiet. Most people seen walking on campus are respecting social distancing and wearing masks.
If you’re itching to get out of the house, we’ve put together a walking tour of public art of various styles. The route is a little over 2 miles and will take about an hour and 15 minutes to complete, depending on how long you linger at and contemplate each piece.
There’s plenty of free parking. Parking in the Second Street Garage, just east of Mountain Avenue, puts you by the Student Union Memorial Center and near the first walking tour stop at the center of the roundabout at Mountain Avenue and James E. Rogers Way.
1. USS Arizona Tile Piece
Artist: Susan Gamble
This USS Arizona Memorial sculpture resembles a ship’s mast with U.S. and Arizona flags and features 1,511 military-style identification tags — aka dog tags — one for each of the sailors who were on the USS Arizona, Dec. 7, 1941, when it went down at Pearl Harbor. Each tag is imprinted with the name of a sailor and they create a gigantic wind chime.
Walk to the next stop: About 50 steps to the east, south of the Second Street Garage and north of the Student Union Memorial Center.
2. UAspire #1
Artist: Susan Gamble
An “A”, of sorts, soars into the sky. Every time you look at this piece you find something you didn’t see before.
Walk: Head east about 170 steps north of Second Street Garage between the Student Union and the Administration building.
Artist: Donald Haskin
This sleek piece influenced by early Native American petroglyphs is nestled in a desert-scape.
Walk: Continue further east about 250 steps to the walkway between the Administration and Modern Languages buildings to the edge of the grassy Mall.
4. The Wildcat Family
Artist: Nicholas Wilson
A 12-foot tall bronze of four bobcats lounge together.
Walk: East along the north side of the Mall about 440 steps to the front of the Flandrau Science Center and Planetarium, 1601 E. University Blvd., on the northeast corner of North Cherry Avenue.
5. Babe from Space
Artist: Donald Haskin
A metal abstract of a space rock supported by base legs appears to have landed in the grassy area near the entrance of Flandrau.
Check the time with the human sundial a few steps away from “Babe from Space.”
Walk: Continue east about 450 steps to the entrance of the Stevie Eller Dance Theatre, 1737 E. University Blvd.
Artist: Dennis Jones
See yourself in this sculpture, which literally reflects its surroundings.
While you’re there, look northwest into the wellness garden: Can you spot the unicorn?
Walk: Take about 235 steps east to the east edge of the Mall along East University Boulevard at North Campbell Avenue.
7. Curving Arcades (Homage to Bernini)
Artist: Athena Tacha
You’ve probably zipped by Curving Arcades as you’ve driven down Campbell Avenue. However, when you stand near it and wander through the 15 inverted pieces that resemble wishbones (or clothes pins) colors appear to change and glimmer.
Walk: About 325 steps along the south side of the Mall on University Boulevard and north of the Eddie Lynch Athletics Pavilion at the north end of McKale Memorial Center.
Artist: Mark Rossi
Wildcats frolic next to the Rocky LaRose Legacy Lane walkway.
Walk: Further west along the Mall about 500 steps to the front of the University of Arizona Main Library, 1510 E. University Blvd.
9. Another Martyr No. 4
Artist: Fritz Scholder
This a sculpture that evokes questions and discussion, such as whether it honors Native Americans or reinforces stereotypes.
As you leave the plaza at the entrance of the library, peek through the fencing into the Student Success District that’s under construction, see if you can spot Girl with the Doves by David Wynne.
Walk: Continue west on the south side of the Mall about 435 steps to the front of the Henry Koffler Building, 1340 E. University Blvd.
10. 25 Scientists
Artist: George Greenamyer
This whimsical, site-specific piece reflects the workings in the building it represents. How many of the sciences depicted in the piece can you name?
Walk: About 225 steps to the north into the Mall, south of the Student Union and east of Old Main.
11. USS Arizona Mall Memorial
The memorial honors the 1,177 Marines and sailors who lost their lives on Dec. 7, 1941, on the USS Arizona during the attack on Pearl Harbor. Within a 597-foot long, 97-foot wide outline of the USS Arizona, the memorial includes 1,177 bronze medallions that are inscribed with the name, rank and home state of those who lost their lives. The flagpole of the memorial is in line with the bell tower in the Student Union, which is home to one of the bells that was salvaged from the ship.
Walk: North about 50 steps toward the south-facing wall of the Student Union bookstore, 1209 E. University Blvd.
12. Those Who Gave Their Lives
Artist: Philips Sanderson
As you leave the USS Arizona memorial, look up the west to spot the bas-relief under the building-name signage. Look to the east to see the original USS Arizona bell in its belfry.
Walk: About 950 steps through the Student Union breezeway east of the book store, through the roundabout, go east on Second Street and head north on Olive Road to the open space in front of Marroney Theatre, 1025 N. Olive Road, in the UA Fine Arts Complex.
13. Front Row Center
Artist: Barbara Grygutis
The environmental work represents the performing arts in visual art. Large, whimsical chairs and tiled benches nestled in trees, create an ideal spot to wait for a theater or music performance. The canopy on the Marroney Theater features an original Macintosh computer, a paintbrush, instruments, a sewing machine and other props and objects relevant to the fine arts.
Look around the theater, music and art buildings and you’ll spot several other pieces, including:
- Hamlet by artist William Arms — Near the southeast corner of the Marroney Theatre
- Standing Woman by artist Francisco Zuniga — North of the Marroney Theatre, near the entrance to the UA Museum of Art, 1031 N. Olive Road
- Lesson of a Disaster by artist Jacques Lipchitz — UA Museum of Art entrance
Walk: About 400 steps south on the east side of Olive Road, north of Second Street near the Richard A. Harvill Building.
14. Border Dynamics
Artists: Alberto Morackis and Guadalupe Serrano
Giant metal humans, painted to look like raw meat, push against both sides of a border fence, in this powerful piece that generates dialogue and debate. The original 2003 concept had the figures leaning on the actual border fence. But concerns about border security caused the project to be scrapped on the U.S. side.
Walk: About 500 steps east on Second street and to the roundabout and the Second Street Garage.
* Step count is not precise and offered only as an estimate of distance.
Ann Brown is a former reporter and editor at the Star.
Stay up-to-date on what's happening
Receive the latest in local entertainment news in your inbox weekly!